Why it’s hard to change how you feel when your child is using substances

Familiarity feels good to us. 

Even when it’s the familiarity of worry, anger, fear, guilt, or confusion. 

We don’t like how those emotions feel, but we know them, so there is a sense of comfort with them

I was talking to someone the other day who feels a lot of discomfort when she tries to turn toward peace and calmness in her life.

Because of her child’s addiction she has been living with those intense painful feelings for so long, she feels panicked like something bad is going to happen when she tries to change them.

This isn’t a surprising reaction. 

Even feelings are memorized and our bodies get used to the chemicals created by those feelings.  

When you try to change from a state of constant worry to peace, it creates discomfort. 

You have to bypass the neural pathways for worry and purposely create new neural pathways for peace.

Then your body notices you’ve changed from worry to peace and it wants the worry back because that is what it’s used to and efficient at.

So, the body sends a signal to the brain that something is going on and it needs to be fixed because the state of worry is gone!

Feelings can become habits too.

That’s why when you’re trying to change it’s uncomfortable, BUT nothing has gone wrong

Your body is working as it’s designed to. 

The key is to expect the discomfort and be willing to sit with it through the process of change. 

It’s interesting how change requires discomfort, but our natural response to discomfort is we think something is wrong.

Here’s the most important thing to know – THERE IS DISCOMFORT EITHER WAY!

There’s the discomfort of staying the same, and the discomfort of changing. 

The discomfort you know keeps you stuck where you are. 

The discomfort of change opens a new world of possibilities.

Once I learned that, my life started to change. 

Here’s some examples:

  • I embraced the discomfort of setting boundaries and saying no rather than keeping the discomfort of feeling taken advantage of
  • I learned to sit with the discomfort of leaving my superhero cape in the closet and letting my daughter deal with the natural consequences of her addiction rather than feel the discomfort of wondering if what I was doing was keeping her from getting sober
  • I opened myself up to the discomfort of vulnerability so I could feel the full spectrum of human emotion rather than protecting myself with numbness and the discomfort of knowing it was keeping me from fully experiencing life
  • I feel the discomfort of telling the world my recovery story rather than feel the discomfort of knowing I let what others might think hold me back from sharing something that might help someone who is suffering.

The examples above are some of the ways I created a new normal after my daughter’s addiction started. 

I sat with the discomfort of the new ways until they became familiar to me and created new neuropathways. 

The boundaries, feelings, and intentional reactions have become second nature

The other day I was at my daughter’s and things started to get heated. 

I told her I loved her, and I left.

My boundary is I won’t engage if we can’t have a reasonable conversation.

My reaction was my new normal.

My old normal was to sit there and defend myself and try to reason with her so she could see things my way and not be upset with me.

Leaving was the most loving thing I could do for both of us.   

I still experienced a lot of discomfort after I left, but it would have been so much worse if I had stayed and engaged.

I chose my discomfort. 

If you are trying to change and it’s uncomfortable, remember the discomfort is there either way and expect it. 

Choose the discomfort of change.

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